Name: Ametsa with Arzak Instruction
The decor is indeed quite stark, with plain white walls, very little artwork, and the ceiling is decorated with hundreds of glass test-tube like vessels filled with orange - yellow powdered spices. To me, the restaurant felt like the canteen of a modern art gallery, with bright lights and a minimalist style. While the focus should of course be on the food, at the tasting menu price, guests might expect a greater sense of occasion than Ametsa delivers.
What we ate/drank: We kicked off with a selection of small-eats (aperitivos) including chorizo wrapped in mango, deep-fried lotus root with a creamy fish mousse, kataifi (finely shredded filo pastry which looks like very thin vermicelli noodles) filled with scorpionfish cake and foie-gras and apple toasts.
They all tasted delicious and were well thought out in my opinion. I particularly enjoyed the contrasting textures and sweet/savoury flavours in the chorizo and mango combination. The kataifi was served on a metal spike, and eaten from a long wooden skewer, it again had an interesting texture and a delicate flavour. The lotus root slices were deep-fried and very crispy and worked well with the accompanying fish mousse. I loved the combination of foie-gras and apple on toast, creamily unctuous yet refreshing.
We opted for the wine flights to match the tasting menu. To accompany the ‘aperitivos’, we had a glass of rose cava ‘Gramona Argent’ Gran Reserva from Catalonia. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this cava had a lovely scent of red berry fruit and vanilla, with refreshing acidity to cut through the rich foie-gras and fish dishes.
A more technically interesting dish was the Scottish king prawn with crispy rice vermicelli noodles, served on a spider crab stew San Sebastián style, with a rich sweetcorn soup. Garnished with petals, this had an intense bisque-like flavour from the cooked shellfish, and very well balanced by the rich sweetcorn soup.
The third starter, was a clever dish of egg with squid noodles. The egg had been cooked in a waterbath at 63 degrees for 30 minutes, then shelled, breaded and deep fried, and served on a bed of squid sliced into noodle-like slivers. The squid ink sauce had a richly concentrated, savoury quality bringing the various components together. This was one of my favourite dishes on the menu.
With the starters, we had a glass each of La Gitana Manzanilla and of Pastrana Single vineyard Manzanilla Pasada. I loved the refreshing acidity of both these bone-dry sherries, but the Pastrana had just a slight extra kick of intensity and fragrance reflecting its longer ageing.
We also had a glass of Albariño 2012- La Liebre y la Tortuga (the hare and the tortoise). Albariño is one of my favourite white wines made from the eponymous grape, coming from Rias Baixas in northwestern Spain, and this was an elegant example, with citrus fruit notes, good acidity and a rich finish.
To accompany the tuna, we had a glass of Silencis 2012 from Raventos i Blanc in Penedes. A blend of Xarelo and Chardonnay, this wine is partially oak aged and had a sufficient weight of green fruit to match up to the meaty fish.
We washed the pigeon down with a glass of excellent Gran Reserva Especial Cosecha 2004 from Castillo Ygay, Rioja.
The 'pre-dessert', was the much criticised 'moon stones'. Intended to simulate the moon, with 'stones' made from orange juice and Cointreau inside a cocoa butter skin, with 'craters' of red wine and soya sauce, and 'sand' of sesame seed and sugar. I am not quite sure why this divides opinion so much, I personally enjoyed the flavours in the dish, and thought it was creative and a bit of fun.
The ‘pre-dessert” (love the idea of pre-desserts) was followed by two desserts - a delicious clove custard with roasted pineapple ice cream and a wafer of burnt milk, and another, named ‘Passionate’ a refreshing passion fruit cake with with crème anglaise , crunchy milk and soft cheese ice cream. I enjoyed both desserts, they were light, refreshing and beautifully presented.
The desserts were served with a glass of Ariyanas Dulce 2007, from Bodegas Bentomiz, Malaga. A naturally sweet wine made by a Dutch couple who started their vineyard in 2003, this is made from the moscatel grape, and had lovely notes of honey and melon, but with plenty of acidity to prevent it from being cloying.